Manatees Dying Off Both Florida Coasts; Scientists Trying to Figure Out Why

Scientists have been working diligently to figure why manatees have started to die at an alarming rate lately.

While Red Tide -- which is basically blooms of poisonous algae called Karenia brevis that is deadly to fish and other sea life -- off the coast of southwest Florida has killed roughly 180 manatees, a mysterious ailment, unrelated to Red Tide, has been killing the sea cows on the East Coast as well.

According to scientists, the manatees that fall victim on the East Coast go into shock before drowning after eating a specific algae.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, more than 100 brown pelicans have also been found dead in the same general area since the start of the year. Scientists say the pelicans were found emaciated and filled with parasites.

This newly discovered algae is the same that's been found in the Indian River Lagoon, tainting the water into a deep-brown color.

This brown bloom has taken out 31,000 acres of sea grass in the 156-mile-long lagoon the past two years.

But as it turns out, any sick manatees that have been found have not survived, making it tougher to examine the animals and pinpoint the exact problem.

While the cause of the west coast Red Tide has yet to be nailed down, the East Coast brown bloom is from a storm runoff of fertilizers, sewage, manure, and pet waste.

Kevin Baxter, spokesman for the state's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, says the sudden change in diet may be the cause of the manatees dying in huge numbers all of a sudden -- particularly due to the manatees' eating large amounts of macroalgae.